In the past year, West End and South Bank has really become my backyard and local food hunting ground. It's been really exciting for me to see all the new cafes and restaurants pop up, especially in South Bank Parklands as it emerges as one of Brisbane's most concentrated dining hubs.
Next Door Kitchen and Bar opened a while back but like most new 'drinks' venues, I find it harder to generate an excuse to visit. Marc and I like a good drink as much as the next person but when we go out, we prefer places that primarily focus on food. To me, anything that has 'Bar' or 'Lounge' in its name will always seem more appropriate for larger social gatherings.
Last Thursday night, I made a special trip to Brisbane for a goodbye dinner with all my friends before Marc and I head off to Europe next week. I plucked Next Door Kitchen and Bar out of my list of potential venues as the perfect location for drinks, food and catchups.
The interesting thing about Next Door Kitchen and Bar is that as many times as I've ventured through South Bank Parklands in recent months, I had never directly seen the place. I told everyone it was next to Ahmet's Turkish Restaurant but when I walked there with Kat, we didn't see it right away and walked all the way around the block. I was just about to Google the location when we saw the sign for Next Door Kitchen and Bar... right next to Ahmet's where I thought it would be. Hmm... what happened there? Some kind of black hole loop?
I would put that down to my stupidity but the exact same thing happened to another 3 guys in our group who all arrived separately. I think the issue is that Next Door is very dark and the signage is quite subtle so if you don't know exactly where you're going, it's easy to walk past or only see the more attention-grabbing signage on either side.
Quirky cider and cocktail containers
There were tables outside but the table we booked was a long one insdoors against the back wall. It was a fairly chilly night so that was good news for me.
Apple and Cinnamon Bellini (at front)
We started with drinks as we waited for all members of the party to arrive. I was amused with certain items on the menu such as 'Hooch' and 'Giggle Juice'. Refraining from ordering those just out of novelty, I ended up getting an Apple and Cinnamon Bellini for my first drink, and Berries for my second. The bellini was amazing. It tasted almost too good to be alcoholic and Kat remarked that it was like a muffin in liquid form.
The menu at Next Door Kitchen and Bar comprises predominantly of share plates. Of course, you don't have to share these plates and it's not inconceivable to order one or two for yourself. Some of the larger share plates definitely sounded like individual mains to me.
Our group discussed at length and after much confusion, we decided that the whole table would be sharing food. We ordered a bunch of things at random (everyone agreed on Gangster wings but beyond that, no one seemed to care) and left it to the kitchen to sort out.
I was impressed by the waitress because she staggered our mess of an order into 'courses'. It kept our table tidy and also made it feel like a proper, designed banquet rather than a random selection of finger food.
Gangster chicken wings
The first dishes that were brought out were the chicken wings and the polenta chips. I really liked the chicken wings. They had a dry rub coating that Renae identified as containing lots of cumin amongst other spices. The creamy dipping sauce was great too. They had just the right amount of heat for me and I think a bucket of these plus icy cold beer would be a match made in heaven.
Golden fried polenta chips - with salsa verde, sour cream and pickled eggplant
I've had polenta chips at various places before and always have mixed feelings about them. On one hand, yes they are quite tasty but on the other hand, I still think regular potato chips are nicer! One thing's for sure though, I've never heard them described as well as Jaws did when he said "they're like nachos but in potato chip form". The accompanying pastes seemed strange at first but really brought out the flavors. I especially enjoyed the pickled eggplant with the polenta.
Crushed wagyu meatballs - with provolone and sticky onion jam
Next came the wagyu meatballs and fried calamari. I thought the meatballs were really amazing. I have a thing for ordering meatballs whenever I see them on the menu and they're NOT always good! These just had a lovely, rich flavor and the sweet onion jam was far superior and more interesting than the plain passata you usually get with meatballs.
Spiced calamari - with baba ghanoush and burnt orange vinaigrette
The calamari was quite interesting. There were large tubes and smaller tentacle pieces. I had a bit of each. The tube was really tender but there wasn't much flavor there. I'm not sure if sweet and tangy works with calamari. For me, it needed more spice or maybe a creamy component.
Slow cooked lamb neck - with maple roasted pumpkin, fire roasted onions, hazelnut and Maleny yoghurt
For our 'mains' we had a portion of slow cooked lambs neck and another of the quail. The lamb was fine for sharing but the quail would have definitely been better suited for an individual main (or even entree... it was that small). The lamb was beautifully cooked to the point of melting. I was already quite full by now but still appreciated how delicious this was.
Seared quail - with truffled white beans and raisin and pine nut vinaigrette
The quail was quite a tragedy to divide up amongst our group and I'm sure there were some who missed out... although to be honest, I don't think they missed much. This was the only dish that didn't leave much of an impression on me.
Truffle parmesan fries
My favorite item of the night had to be the truffle fries. I will always fondly remember my first experience of truffled shoestring fries from Moo Moos on the Gold Coast. This stuff was very similar, in fact, the flavor might even have been better (stronger earthy truffleness??) but the one criticism I have is that the fries were all really short. Renae explained that they might have crushed them on purpose to create more crunchy bits. They were really crunchy but because they were too short to dip into the accompanying sauce. We all resorted to using our forks. Forks and fries. Strange, but it gets the job done.
I really enjoyed the food and drinks at Next Door Kitchen and Bar. The venue itself is nothing to write home about. There are definitely more stylish or quirky bars around but I can confidently say that the food is tasty. I recommend ordering a few things and sharing. The wagyu meatballs, gangster chicken wings and truffled fries are my picks for share plates. The lamb neck would be a great solo dish.